Extended ‘Avatar’ is the home video event of the year

Posted by · 9:22 am · November 22nd, 2010

The most exciting Blu-ray/DVD release of the year (perhaps more so than the Criterion release of Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line”) might be the three-disc Extended Collector’s Edition of James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

I watched the nearly three-hour film this weekend and found it, without a doubt, a better, more fully realized experience than the film we saw in theaters a year ago.  Some of the material was already included in a “special edition” theatrical re-release in August.  Those elements mostly include bits and pieces here and there that certainly fill the film out a bit.

However, in the early moments of the extended edition (which has been on shelves since Tuesday), we’re met with a sequence set on a ruined earth that provides a visual effects feast different than the rest of the film.  I loved this stuff mostly for the character-building moments provided for Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully.

Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Grace Augustine character is given a beautiful scene revealing the dark recent history of the human military impact on the Na’vi.  This was a great scene and, like the stuff with Sully early on, would have gone a long way toward a performance argument for the film amid all of the motion-capture debate last year.

The only other beat beat that differs from the “special edition” that I noticed was a brief exchange between Augustine and Sully driving home the idea of a “fabricated war” with the Na’vi.

This is great stuff unfortunately sacrificed from the theatrical cut, but I’m very happy it’s been implemented here.  Think of it as a cash grab if you want, but we all knew this edition was on the way.  And I’m glad I held out.

There is even more discarded material in the form of a boatload of scenes and sequences with visual effects not fully rendered.  A lot of it is unnecessary though none of it really feels frivolous.  One sequence in particular, though, is trippy as hell and I’d LOVE to see it fully rendered.  It comes during Sully’s final “become a man” ceremony with the Na’vi and involves some kind of peyote thing-a-ma-bob and, well,  Roger Waters-level stuff.  I also love what the score is doing here (though I can’t remember if it was just temp track).

Elsewhere there is an expected behind-the-scenes look at the performance capture process (a solid hour-and-a-half), a 20-minute “Message from Pandora” featuring Cameron and company’s March 2010 trip to the Amazon, raw footage of screen tests of a number of actors in the film (as well as Cameron’s big speech to the crew at the beginning of live-action filming) and just a ton of featurettes on everything from the score to working with the 3D fusion camera to creating the Na’vi language.  You get lost.

The package is just a real treat all around.  Bravo.

[Photo: 20th Century Fox]




→ 28 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

28 responses so far

  • 1 11-22-2010 at 9:34 am

    Duncan Houst said...

    I didn’t actually like the theatrical version of “Avatar” in the slightest, so I don’t really have that high expectations.

  • 2 11-22-2010 at 9:35 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I’ll get it for sure as well. The whole package looks very impressive and it’s the one film where the making-off could be equally interesting as the final film, especially since it’s been such history.

  • 3 11-22-2010 at 10:26 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    This may be an odd quirk but once I see a film for the first time and enjoy it I don’t want to see any other edition of the film. I have never seen the extended LOTR films and don’t plan on seeing this.

    The only exception I would make is if they ever released that five hour cut of Thin Red Line but that would obviously change the film drastically.

    A few scenes that did not make the theatrical cut just does not seem to interest me.

  • 4 11-22-2010 at 10:33 am

    Mike_M said...

    How about The Night of the Hunter Blu-ray release – that is a real treat…

  • 5 11-22-2010 at 10:35 am

    Maxim said...

    Kris, I’m just curious, did you watch this “Extended Collector’s Edition” at home in 3D or 2D?

  • 6 11-22-2010 at 11:06 am

    Kyle said...

    I’m with Duncan, I really disliked the theatrical release. But having bought a new tv recently, I wanted something to show me what it could do. Visually, this dvd did the trick…it’s still a boring story though. Extended Watchmen remains the best double-dipped 2009 film (or triple-dipped, if you’re so inclined)
    ;-)

  • 7 11-22-2010 at 11:08 am

    Loyal said...

    3D Avatar doesn’t hit the market until Dec 1st and is bundled exclusively with Panasonic 3D televisions. That said, there is a 3D easter egg on the current Blu-ray release.

  • 8 11-22-2010 at 11:17 am

    Maxim said...

    Thanks for the clarification, Loyal. I kind of assumed this version was already in 3D. A good reminder that when it comes to purchases, proper research is a must.

  • 9 11-22-2010 at 12:58 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    Might pick this up in about six years when I see it for five bucks at a pawn shop. Or whenever the Ultimate Quadruple Dip Final Special Director’s Cut Remastered Edition: Redux arrives on the market.

  • 10 11-22-2010 at 1:07 pm

    Maxim said...

    Never really understood all the “Avatar” hate. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever by a long stretch, but, oftentimes the hate comes from people who would ordinarily eat up shows made for the “SyFy” channel.

    I mean, why the sudden snobbism? There is a lot to like here.

  • 11 11-22-2010 at 1:13 pm

    Ben M. said...

    I saw the special edition in Imax a couple of months ago, and did feel the additions made for a better overall film. In fact, I’ve liked the movie more each of the three times I’ve seen it, but I’m not so sure about a video version as there is a transporting element of the film that I imagine would be somewhat lost on 2D televisions vs. a 3D theatre.

  • 12 11-22-2010 at 2:12 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “This may be an odd quirk but once I see a film for the first time and enjoy it I don’t want to see any other edition of the film. I have never seen the extended LOTR films and don’t plan on seeing this.

    The only exception I would make is if they ever released that five hour cut of Thin Red Line but that would obviously change the film drastically.

    A few scenes that did not make the theatrical cut just does not seem to interest me.”

    Cameron’s Special Editions usually are treats with the exception of Terminator 2. The Theatrical Version is the movie. Although, the scene extensions and brand new sequences are interesting at the curiosity level of “what could’ve been” it ultimately ruins the flow and character of the original released version.

  • 13 11-22-2010 at 2:18 pm

    Jeremy said...

    I’m looking forward to the disc, and I’m glad I held out when the bare-bones version was released. That said, I’m disappointed Cameron didn’t record an audio commentary — sure seems like he’d have plenty to say.

  • 14 11-22-2010 at 2:20 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I’m still baffled that people buy DVDs. Surely, they’re less than a year from being obsolete.

  • 15 11-22-2010 at 2:21 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Well there you go. I had forgotten about watching the T2 deleted scenes and can now recall finding them flat out annoying. Another indicator that most likely I would not like this new Avatar edition.

  • 16 11-22-2010 at 2:50 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I saw the extended in theaters too but the only scene that felt really out of place was the Tsu’tey death scene towards the end. It really ruined the great pacing of the original version.

  • 17 11-22-2010 at 3:18 pm

    Liz said...

    Chad, you think that DVDs are going to be obsolete in less than a year? Don’t you think that it will take Netflix or whoever a lot longer to gain the streaming rights to every (and obsolecence would require EVERY) movie that they currently have available on DVD? Or are you thinking of something else?

    Eventually streaming will take over, but in less than a year? No way.

  • 18 11-22-2010 at 3:23 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Why in the world would DVDs be obsolete?

    ***… found it, without a doubt, a better, more fully realized experience than the film we saw in theaters a year ago.***

    Better than an immersive 3D experience on a gigantic screen shared with a hundred other people? I find that difficult to believe.

  • 19 11-22-2010 at 6:06 pm

    Chris138 said...

    I think Blu-rays are a bit of a tough sell to the general public. Most of them don’t see a difference between the two formats or don’t care enough to want to spend the extra money for it.

  • 20 11-22-2010 at 6:50 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “I’m still baffled that people buy DVDs. Surely, they’re less than a year from being obsolete.”

    You’re basing this on America’s obvious thirst for the highest quality possible optical disc format. Which is why Laser Disc was so common place with the average consumer and of course everyone has properly calibrated HDTV panels.

  • 21 11-22-2010 at 7:23 pm

    ninja said...

    “the only scene that felt really out of place was the Tsu’tey death scene towards the end. It really ruined the great pacing of the original version.”

    Which is why it was edited out of the original version. Between milking few more tears and keeping the great pacing, Cameron chooses pacing and rightly so. Plus, he said that the scene would have been too much after emotional one between Neytiri and non-Avatar Jake, which was much more important scene.

    Great review of the Extended Cut and bonus features. Sold. Now off to pick it up.

  • 22 11-22-2010 at 9:23 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “I find that difficult to believe.”

    And I don’t really care. I like what I like.

  • 23 11-23-2010 at 11:54 am

    Matt said...

    5 hour cut of Thin Red Line? Ugh. That movie was too long and boring as it was.

  • 24 11-23-2010 at 3:45 pm

    MovieMan said...

    It’s unfortunate this film isn’t half as revolutionary as people make it out to be. Easily among the most overrated films of the last twenty-five years.

  • 25 11-23-2010 at 11:54 pm

    Cheap Tickets said...

    You can feel Cameron’s anger and his passion every time a Na’vi roars. The most exhilarating moments are those when you can feel the director urging his actors to let go completely, to become furious, and to unleash hell.

  • 26 11-24-2010 at 1:30 am

    Angry Shark said...

    The hate is because Cameron had this much money at his disposal, and state of the art visual effects, and used it to tell a shitty story, in the cheesiest way possible. Also, its fists are made exclusively of ham, slamming into your head with its well-meaning messages. WHITE MAN IS BAD. CORPORATIONS RAPE THE EARTH. LET’S FORM A DRUM CIRCLE AND LIVE IN HARMONY WITH NATURE.

  • 27 11-24-2010 at 11:17 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    Angry Shark you seem angry.

  • 28 11-24-2010 at 11:49 am

    Maxim said...

    He thinks he’s snarky but, alas, Sharky, for all of your righteous anger, you are guilty of misreading Cameron.

    You can’t reduce “Avatar” to merely a series of messages like that. I assure you that few, if any take it that literally. Your distillation only showed s where you stand on those issues.

    And even if you did, these are not the worst messages out there.